Friday, February 25, 2011

By Blake Aued - Athens Banner-Herald

At Rep. Paul Broun’s town hall meeting on Tuesday, the Athens congressman asked who had driven the farthest to be there and let the winner ask the first question.

We couldn’t hear the question in the back of the packed Oglethorpe County Commission chamber, but whatever it was, it got a big laugh. According to an outraged commenter on the article, the question was, when is someone going to shoot Obama?

I’ve asked Team Broun whether that was indeed the question and haven’t gotten an answer. The commenter accurately described the questioner and the circumstances, and no one has disputed his account.

Update: Broun’s press secretary, Jessica Morris, confirmed that the question was indeed, who is going to shoot Obama? “Obviously, the question was inappropriate, so Congressman Broun moved on,” she said.

Here was Broun’s response:

The thing is, I know there’s a lot of frustration with this president. We’re going to have an election next year. Hopefully, we’ll elect somebody that’s going to be a conservative, limited-government president that will take a smaller, who will sign a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

He then segued into Republicans’ budget proposal.
The Athens Banner-Herald in Georgia reports that a shocking question was asked at a town hall event held by Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) on Tuesday. According to the article, an audience member asked the congressman, "Who is going to shoot Obama?"

Blake Aued reports:

Broun's press secretary, Jessica Morris, confirmed that the question was indeed, who is going to shoot Obama? "Obviously, the question was inappropriate, so Congressman Broun moved on," she said.

However, rather than confronting the questioner or condemning the question, Broun instead acknowledged "frustration" with Obama, according to the Banner-Herald. The paper reports that Broun responded to the stunning inquiry as follows:

"The thing is, I know there's a lot of frustration with this president. We're going to have an election next year. Hopefully, we'll elect somebody that's going to be a conservative, limited-government president that will take a smaller, who will sign a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare."
There were just two NBA games played on Thursday night, and both were nationally televised on TNT. That was bad news for Chris Bosh.

The Heat power forward turned in a rather forgettable 1-for-18 shooting night. Five of those shots were in the paint, too, which is always a fun place to miss from when you're 6-foot-11.

But a bad shooting night is one thing. An embarrassing flop is a horse of a different color.


OK, look. Pretending you got elbowed in the face is one thing. It is, unfortunately, a part of the game. However, lying on the ground, grabbing your face like you just got your nose busted? Come on. Get up. That's as bad as Derek Jeter's elbow agony in Tampa last year and almost as bad as that soccer player who punched himself in the face.

A woman plucked from a building that collapsed in this week's earthquake went ahead with her planned wedding Friday - a bright spot in Christchurch as the death toll rose to 113 and relatives anguished over the missing.

Emma Howard told local media she was determined not to let Tuesday's 6.3-magnitude quake derail her plans for the wedding, even after she spent more than five hours trapped in a tiny cavity between the collapsed floors of an office building that was completely destroyed.

She managed to text fiance Chris Greenslade, who was outside his office across town when the disaster struck and raced to find her. He dug through the debris of her building, pulling others free as he tried to reach Howard, then helped direct the rescue crews that eventually found her, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The couple were all smiles as they exited the Christ of the King Church on Friday - she in a white strapless dress with a large bow at the back, he in a dark suit and maroon tie - posing briefly for photographs before jumping in a car and heading off.

"Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen has skirted disaster as a wayward, middle-aged party boy who regularly tested the patience of the TV network and studio trying to protect their valuable sitcom property.

It was a violence-tinged and anti-Semitic radio rant that helped push him over the edge and, finally, forced CBS and Warner Bros. Television to take action.

In a one-sentence joint statement Thursday, the companies said they were ending production on television's No. 1 sitcom for the season, a decision based on the "totality of Charlie Sheen's statements, conduct and condition."

Whether he's gone far enough to sink the series and, possibly, his career as one of TV's highest-paid actors remained unclear. Sheen's rambling interview Thursday with host Alex Jones was reminiscent of Mel Gibson's tirade during a 2006 traffic stop - but Sheen knew his remarks were public.

The production halt leaves CBS eight episodes shy of the 24 half-hours it had expected to air as the cornerstone of its Monday night comedy lineup. And it makes the network and Warner, which reaps hundreds of millions from the show in syndication, the potential go-betweens between Sheen and "Two and a Half Men" executive producer Chuck Lorre.

Lorre bore the brunt of Sheen's attacks during the radio interview and in a subsequent "open letter" sent to TMZ after the CBS-Warner decision and posted on the entertainment website.

In the letter, the actor called Lorre a "contaminated little maggot" and wished the producer "nothing but pain."

Militias loyal to Moammar Gadhafi opened fire Friday trying to break up marches by regime opponents defying a fierce clampdown to hold their first major protest in the Libyan capital Tripoli in days. Across rebellious cities in the east, tens of thousands held rallies in support of the Tripoli protesters.

Protesters chanting for Gadhafi's ouster streamed out of mosques in downtown Tripoli after prayers, and they were confronted by a force of troops and militiamen who opened fire in streets near Green Square, said several witnesses.

One man in the Souq al-Jomaa area near the square reported seeing dead or injured from the gunfire. "There are all kind of bullets," he said, screaming in a telephone call to The Associated Press, with the rattle of shots audible in the background. He could not say how many casualties he saw, and his report could not immediately be confirmed.

"The situation is chaotic in parts of Tripoli now," said another witness, who was among marchers in adjacent Algeria Square and said he saw militiamen firing in the air. Armed Gadhafi supporters were also speeding through some streets in vehicles, he said. Residents hiding in their homes also reported the sound of gunfire in other parts of the capital.

Diplomats say Syria has formally rejected a request from the head of the U.N. atomic agency for access to a suspected nuclear site.

The diplomats said senior Syrian officials told the agency in a letter this month that Damascus would allow no new inspections.

Israeli warplanes destroyed what the U.S. says was a secretly built nuclear reactor in 2007. Syria allowed International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to visit the site once but has refused subsequent requests.

The refusal was a snub to IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, who had directly asked Syria's foreign minister in November to allow a new visit.

The agency is attempting to probe both Syria and Iran. It is to release reports on both nations later Friday.

The diplomats spoke anonymously because their information was confidential.
Deeper spending cuts by state and local governments slowed U.S. economic growth in the final three months of last year. The government's revised estimate for the October-December quarter illustrates how growing state budget crises could hold back the economic recovery.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that economic growth increased at an annual rate of 2.8 percent in the final quarter of last year. That was down from the initial estimate of 3.2 percent.

State and local governments, wrestling with budget shortfalls, cut spending at a 2.4 percent pace. That was much deeper than the 0.9 percent annualized cut first estimated and was the most since the start of 2010.

Consumers spent a little less than first thought. Their spending rose at a rate of 4.1 percent, slightly smaller than the initial estimate of 4.4 percent. Still, it was the best showing since 2006. And it suggests Americans will play a larger role this year in helping the economy grow, especially with more money from a Social Security tax cut.

Overall economic growth in the October-December quarter was marginally better than the 2.6 percent pace logged in the prior quarter. But it shows the economy steadily growing after hitting a difficult patch last spring.

For all of last year, the economy grew 2.8 percent, according to revised figures. That was down a bit from the 2.9 percent growth first estimated a month ago. However, it was an improvement from 2009 when the economy suffered its worst decline in more than 60 years.

Still, economic growth must be stronger to make a noticeable dent in unemployment, which was 9 percent last month. The economy would need to grow 5 percent for a whole year to significantly bring down the unemployment rate. Economic growth of just 3 percent a year would hold the unemployment steady and keep up with population growth.
International efforts to respond to the Libyan crisis are gathering pace under US leadership after a still defiant Muammar Gaddafi launched counterattacks to defend Tripoli against the popular uprising now consolidating its hold on the liberated east of the country.

The White House said Barack Obama planned to call David Cameron and France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to discuss possible actions, including a no-fly zone or sanctions to force the Libyan leader to end the violence. Switzerland said it had frozen Gaddafi's assets.

Gaddafi, in power for 42 years, has used aircraft, tanks and foreign mercenaries in eight days of violence that has killed hundreds in the bloodiest of the uprisings to shake the Arab world. Up to 2,000 people may have died, it was claimed by a senior French human rights official.

But there was no sign Gaddafi was prepared to change course. In another semi-coherent and abusive speech on Thursday, he accused protesters of being drugged and agents of al-Qaida. "Their ages are 17. They give them pills at night, they put hallucinatory pills in their drinks, their milk, their coffee, their NescafĂ©," he said in a telephone interview with Libyan state TV – suggesting he may already have left his heavily guarded Tripoli compound.

It only boosted the growing impression that he is desperate and out of touch with reality. "This is the speech of a dead man," said Said el-Gareeny in the eastern city of Benghazi, which is now in opposition hands.

"People always warn about al-Qaida and say this will become an Islamic state ... to get support from western countries. This isn't true. The Libyan people are free. That's it."

Cameron will take personal charge of efforts to set up convoys, protected by the military, able to evacuate British and other citizens stranded in camps in the Libyan desert amid growing fears that they could be taken hostage. The Foreign Office estimates there are 150 Britons, mostly oil workers and support staff, stranded in remote and isolated camps scattered over a large distance.
A possible airlift by special forces will also be examined. The defence secretary, Liam Fox, said he was co-ordinating a response with Nato as well as looking at the state of Libyan air defences and the risk they pose to UK forces. British special forces are in Malta, with some reports that they are in Tripoli.

Heavy fighting was reported from the important town of al-Zawiya, 35 miles west of Tripoli, while armoured units commanded by Gaddafi's son Khamis and other loyalist forces were deployed eastwards along the coastal road towards Misurata, the country's third largest city and a major port – said to be in the hands of rebels who are now equipped with heavy weapons.

Reports from Libya said between 23 and 100 people had been killed in al-Zawiya, which controls the western approaches to Tripoli.

Medical sources in the capital reported that the corpses of those killed in recent days and injured patients were removed from the Tripoli medical centre and another hospital.

Witnesses said they had been taken to Mitiga military airport. "They are trying to hide the evidence and cleaning up the streets and telling people to go to work," said one man. "But from dusk onwards it's a ghost town."

In eastern Libya, many soldiers have now withdrawn from active service and some are supporting the revolt, with a former Gaddafi minister helping to organise the next stage of the uprising.
A senior Bahraini cleric said Friday that any dialogue between anti-government protesters and the kingdom's rulers must lead to clear results that achieve the demands of the people.

Imam Isa Qassim issued the call for conditions to any talks as opposition supporters prepared to launch mass marches on the capital's landmark Pearl Square, which has become the focal point of the political protests pushing for democratic change. Protesters hope to keep up the pressure on the Sunni monarchy that controls Bahrain, a key U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf and home to the Navy's Fifth Fleet.

In a sermon at a Shiite village mosque in the an anti-government hotbed of Diraz, Qassim called for talks that are "clear, comprehensive and productive." He said demonstrators want guarantees on what would be accomplished by the talks.

In contrast to Wisconsin's Republican governor, who has targeted public-worker unions as the chief villain of his state's budget-cutting drama, Democratic governors across the country who face similar fiscal challenges have tried to sidestep such confrontations with a key constituency by quietly cutting deals with labor leaders.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed largely sparing schools and prisons from the deeper cuts hitting other areas as he tries to close the state's $25 billion deficit, and powerful unions representing teachers and corrections officers are lining up behind his budget plan.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has angered public-sector unions by calling for deep reductions in benefits, has worked closely with some labor officials on proposed cutbacks and is promising more dialogue in the coming days. And while Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper recently proposed deep cuts to Medicaid, human services and education and even called for closing a state prison, he has vowed to retain an agreement giving workers limited bargaining rights and has invited employees to submit ideas for cutting waste and inefficiencies.

"I'm not saying the unions are happy about this," said Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who has angered public-worker advocates by his push to overhaul state pensions as he tries to cut billions from the budget this year. "But it's not like we're locking each other out of the statehouse or stopped talking with each other."

O'Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, will welcome a number of his counterparts from around the nation to Washington for a weekend meeting, starting Friday, at which budget-cutting strategies are expected to be a hot topic. He described his party's approach with the unions as "fundamentally pragmatic," adding that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other Republican leaders have embarked on an "ideological drive to go after the unions, to destroy the unions."
Walker's plan to roll back collective-bargaining rights for many public workers has sparked mass protests and a legislative standoff. It has also suddenly made him a hero to many conservatives who see public-sector unions as major funders of Democratic campaigns and fierce defenders of pension systems that have helped drain state coffers.

Walker has said that his sole motive is to regain control of Wisconsin's budget and that unions' collective-bargaining powers unduly constrain state and local governments. The governor's plan "is about avoiding massive layoffs and balancing this and future budgets," said spokesman Chris Schrimpf. "That's what he was elected to do."

The decision by Walker and some other new Republican governors, such as Ohio's John Kasich, to take on public-worker unions carries some risk. For example, their efforts have mobilized liberal activists in two states likely to be critical battlegrounds in President Obama's 2012 reelection campaign.

But Democrats from Obama to city mayors face a larger political challenge: how to satisfy the public pressure - and in some cases, legal obligation - to balance budgets through spending cuts without antagonizing or alienating some of their most loyal electoral and financial supporters.

The White House has tried to find the right balance. Obama last week called Walker's plan an "assault" on unions, and the president's political organization helped instigate demonstrations in Madison, Wis., and other state capitals. But Obama and his aides have also emphasized his support for less federal spending, including a pay freeze for federal workers.

The tension is palpable even in some deeply Democratic cities and states, where unions and politicians have enjoyed fruitful alliances for years. Now voter anxiety over government deficits is putting more distance between the two groups.
In Chicago, former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel won an easy majority in the city's six-way mayoral race on Tuesday - even though he pledged deep cuts to city pensions and did not have the support of powerful police and firefighter unions. Emanuel has pledged to work with the unions when he takes office, but his decisive victory gives him a mandate to push for cutbacks.

Brown, perhaps more than other Democrats, has sought a full partnership with public-sector unions. He has proposed slicing $12.5 billion from the state budget, with deep cuts to universities and human services and pay reductions for state workers, but unions like his plan to ask voters to approve in June $12.5 billion in temporary taxes. Public-sector unions, such as the powerful California Teachers Association, have signaled they would fund the media campaign in support of passage for the taxes.

If state lawmakers don't agree to the referendum or if voters reject the tax extensions, Brown warned Thursday, he would push for the full $25 billion in budget cuts.
"It's crafty," said Joe Mathews, co-author of the new book "California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It." Brown is "making the unions in some sense own this budget proposal. If it doesn't work, he can say, 'I tried. Now we've got to do this hard stuff.' "

Cuomo has reached out to New York's most powerful union, Service Employees International Union 1199, which represents thousands of health care workers but not public employees. He solicited the group's participation on a panel studying Medicaid cuts that could affect many of the union's 275,000 members in the state.

But in his campaign last year, Cuomo called for sacrifice by public-sector unions, penning a Labor Day column for the New York Daily News titled, "Labor, be part of the solution." And some public-employee advocates say they remain unsure what to make of the new governor, who has invited them to negotiate over hundreds of millions of dollars in proposed cuts to payroll and benefits but hasn't worked yet on specifics.
ad_icon

One union official said Thursday that his members are giving Cuomo the benefit of the doubt, but labor is bulking up its social-networking abilities in case more grass-roots action is needed.

"We're baffled here because he's saying he wants to negotiate with us but we haven't even sat down and talked about it," said Stephen Madarasz, spokesman for the Civil Service Employees Association, one of New York's public-worker unions. "So we have no idea how he's looking to get that savings."

Hickenlooper, a self-described centrist Democrat, said Thursday that he has tried to enlist groups as disparate as public-worker unions and Republicans in helping figure out the state's budget dilemma - an effort aimed at building bridges with key constituencies, rather than burning them.

"We're going to go through a very hard time, and we need everybody's help," he said. "As much as we can, we want to turn down the emotion. If you have to make bitter choices, how can we help each other to do this?"

Some of Hickenlooper's recent proposals would cause more pain to state workers, who are heading into their third year without a pay raise. For instance, he plans to close at least one state park as well as a prison in southeastern Colorado and to ask workers to pay more than they have toward their pensions.

Teacher unions were not pleased with the deep cuts that Hickenlooper has proposed to education funding in the state.

"Nobody is happy about that," Hickenlooper said Thursday.

But despite that discontent, he said, the unions have been willing to work with him on where the cuts should come.

"I think they recognize we don't have a whole lot of choice," Hickenlooper said.

Asked about Walker's tactics in Wisconsin, the Colorado governor demurred.

"I'm not great at criticizing someone else," he said, noting that almost every governor these days has his own unique and perplexing set of problems.
A man suspected of murdering a foreigner honeymooning in Cape Town was denied bail Friday after a magistrate said he wanted to show the world that South Africa's justice system is strong.

The prosecution had overwhelming evidence that implicated Mziwamadoda Qwabe in the murder of Anni Dewani, magistrate Gavin du Plessis said at the bail hearing. The second murder suspect, Xolile Mngeni, did not apply for bail.

Police accused Dewani's British husband, Shrien Dewani, of hiring three South Africans to kill her last year.

Dewani said gunmen attacked their vehicle during a late-night tour of an impoverished neighborhood. Their cab driver, Zola Tongo, said Shrien Dewani offered 15,000 rand (about $2,100) to each person involved, but paid only 1,000 (about $145).

Tongo was sentenced to 18 years after a confession implicating Dewani, Qwabe and Mngeni. Dewani, who denied the charges of having his Swedish wife murdered during their honeymoon in South Africa, is out on bail in Britain and is fighting extradition to South Africa.

Dewani was hospitalized Sunday afternoon in southwestern England after his sister discovered him drowsy and unresponsive in his bedroom with three empty bottles of pills nearby. He was earlier diagnosed with an acute stress disorder.

South African authorities on Thursday asked a London judge to revoke Shrien Dewani's bail after the incident.

The circumstances of the 31-year-old Dewani's apparent drug overdose were fiercely disputed and the judge ordered legal representatives from both sides to gather more information.

Ben Watson, acting on behalf of South African authorities, called it a suicide attempt and urged the court Thursday to return Dewani to police custody. He said the incident shows Dewani could fail to attend court proceedings and detaining the suspect is "necessary" for his own safety.

But Dewani's lawyers and psychiatrist said Dewani was not trying to kill himself, but instead seeking sleep. They said putting Dewani in custody would negatively impact his mental health.

Officials say Dior designer John Galliano was briefly detained after a spat in a Paris restaurant.

An official with the Paris prosecutor's office says a couple in the restaurant accused Galliano of making anti-Semitic insults. A police official said Friday that Galliano also exchanged slaps with the couple.

The flamboyant British designer was questioned and released after the Thursday night incident. Both officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing say Galliano's blood alcohol levels were high.

The Dior fashion house would not comment on the incident.
A senior Bahraini cleric says anti-government protesters will engage in dialogue with the government only if talks lead to clear results that achieve the demands of the people.

In a sermon at a Shiite village mosque in the an anti-government hotbed of Diraz, imam Isa Qassim called for talks that are "clear, comprehensive and productive." He says demonstrators want guarantees on what would be accomplished by the talks.

Bahrain's rulers have offered to talk with opposition groups to try to defuse the showdown, but protesters have been slow to answer the call.

Demonstrators are planning marches later Friday to Manama's central Pearl Square that has been the center of protests.
The U.N.'s top human rights official said Friday that reports of mass killings of thousands in Libya should spur the international community to "step in vigorously" to end the crackdown against anti-government protesters in the North African country.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged the U.N. Human Rights Council to use all means possible to establish an independent panel to investigate the alleged abuses by Libyan security forces and hold those responsible to account.

European nations were leading the effort to condemn the crackdown ordered by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's regime, order a U.N.-led investigation into possible crimes against humanity and propose suspending Libya from the council.

"The crackdown in Libya of peaceful demonstrations is escalating alarmingly with reported mass killings, arbitrary arrests, detention and torture of protesters," Pillay told the U.N.'s top human rights body. "Tanks, helicopters and military aircraft have reportedly been used indiscriminately to attack the protesters. According to some sources, thousands may have been killed or injured."

It was only last May that the former U.S. enemy was elected to the 47-nation Human Rights Council as part of a series of attempts at political rehabilitation on the world stage.

Libya's opposition movement launched a new push against Moammar Gadhafi on Friday, calling for mass demonstrations as it seeks to solidify its gains and loosen the longtime leader's grip on the capital.

The government responded by tightening security in the capital, with tanks and checkpoints lining the airport road and security cordons around mosques where protesters might gather. Young armed men, some wearing green bands on their arms in a sign of loyalty to Gadhafi, checked vehicles for weapons.

Foreign mercenaries and Libyan militiamen loyal to Gadhafi have fought fiercely to roll back the uprising against his rule, attacking two nearby cities Thursday in battles that killed at least 17 people. But rebels made new gains, seizing a military air base, as Gadhafi blamed Osama bin Laden for the upheaval.

A Tripoli resident said people in the capital have received messages on their cell phones urging them to launch demonstrations after Friday prayers, and he said he expected thousands to comply despite fear of pro-Gadhafi militiamen who have been deployed on the streets.

The capital's central Green Square was the site of intense clashes earlier in the week between government supporters and protesters.

The resident said the government detained several activists in Tripoli late Thursday to try to prevent the demonstrations from taking place. Among those detained was Mukhtar al-Mahmoudi, a former member of Libya's Muslim Brotherhood, who in the past spent six years in jail, the resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

"Let us make this Friday the Friday of liberation," one of the messages read, according to the resident.

Gadhafi's crackdown - the harshest by any Arab leader in the wave of protests that has swept the Middle East the past month - has so far helped him maintain control of Tripoli, home to about a third of Libya's 6 million population. But the uprising has divided the country and raised the specter of civil war.

An Iraqi official says Iraqi security forces have killed the top military leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaida linked group responsible for bombings and suicide attacks across Iraq.

Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi told The Associated Press on Friday that authorities killed al-Nasser Lideen Allah Abu Suleiman during an operation on Thursday.

He was the group's war minister. The ISI is an umbrella group that includes al-Qaida in Iraq.

Suleiman replaced the Egyptian Abu Ayyub al-Masri who was killed in a U.S.-Iraqi military strike on a safe house in April.

The ISI has been seriously debilitated since the height of the Iraq war, although the group is still able to carry out deadly attacks.
As corporate profits rise and Wall Street earnings soar, President Barack Obama is pressing American business leaders to create more jobs and find ways for struggling middle-class families to share in the nation's economic recovery.

Obama says the private sector has to do its part to ensure that "we're not simply creating an economy in which one segment of it is doing very well, but the rest of the folks are out there treading water."

"I don't know exactly where your future customers come from if they don't have jobs," Obama said Thursday during the first meeting of his newly created jobs and competitiveness council.

The president asked the 22-member council, comprised of business and labor leaders, to come up with new ideas for increasing hiring and boosting economic growth. He listed streamlining regulations and reforming tax laws as steps he would consider for creating jobs and bringing down the unemployment rate, stuck at about 9 percent.

While many Americans are either without jobs or are under employed, corporate profits continue to rise and 2010 saw record-setting earnings for some Wall Street banks. Still, many of those companies and banks are keeping trillions of dollars on the sidelines, wary of investing while the economic recovery is still fragile.

Some members of the council said their companies' economic data are showing the signs of economic disparity.

You may not want to eat genetically engineered foods. Chances are, you are eating them anyway.

Genetically modified plants grown from seeds engineered in labs now provide much of the food we eat. Most corn, soybean and cotton crops grown in the United States have been genetically modified to resist pesticides or insects, and corn and soy are common food ingredients.

The Agriculture Department has approved three more genetically engineered crops in the past month, and the Food and Drug Administration could approve fast-growing genetically modified salmon for human consumption this year.

Agribusiness and the seed companies say their products help boost crop production, lower prices at the grocery store and feed the world, particularly in developing countries. The FDA and USDA say the engineered foods they've approved are safe - so safe, they don't even need to be labeled as such - and can't be significantly distinguished from conventional varieties.

Organic food companies, chefs and consumer groups have stepped up their efforts - so far, unsuccessfully - to get the government to exercise more oversight of engineered foods, arguing the seeds are floating from field to field and contaminating pure crops. The groups have been bolstered by a growing network of consumers who are wary of processed and modified foods.

Many of these opponents acknowledge that there isn't much solid evidence showing genetically modified foods are somehow dangerous or unhealthy. It just doesn't seem right, they say. It's an ethical issue.

China widened its Internet policing after online calls for protests like those that swept the Middle East, with social networking site LinkedIn and searches for the U.S. ambassador's name both blocked on Friday.

Searches for Ambassador Jon Huntsman's name in Chinese on popular microblogging site Sina Weibo were met with a message saying results were not available due to unspecified "laws, regulations and policies."

A video circulating online shows Huntsman, who has been mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate, scanning the crowd at the site of a tiny protest in Beijing last weekend. An unidentified Chinese man asked Huntsman what he was doing there and whether he wanted to see chaos in China. Huntsman walked away from the scene after that comment.

The U.S. Embassy was aware that Huntsman's name was being "restricted on some searches" on China's domestic Internet, spokesman Richard Buangan said, but declined further comment on the issue.

He said the ambassador and some family members were passing through the bustling Wangfujing shopping street on Sunday and it was a coincidence that they were there at the same time as the planned protest.

A Pakistani court adjourned on Friday the trial of a CIA contractor charged with killing two Pakistanis until March 3, dismissing U.S. demands for his release.

The contractor, Raymond Davis, shot dead two men in the eastern city of Lahore last month. He said he acted in self-defense and the United States says he has diplomatic immunity and should be repatriated.

The case has inflamed anti-American sentiment in Pakistan and is straining relations between the allies. Pakistani efforts against Islamist militants on its border with Afghanistan are seen as crucial to ending the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

"He (Davis) said that he should be given immunity ... a discussion will be held on this at the next hearing," said Asad Manzoor Butt, a lawyer for the families of the two men Davis killed.

Davis, a former U.S. special forces officer, has been charged with double-murder and faces possible execution.

There have been conflicting accounts about the identity of the two victims with Davis and a police report indicating they were armed robbers while Pakistani media and some officials have portrayed them as innocent victims.

With public anger and anti-American feeling running high, President Ali Asif Zardari's unpopular government had little choice but to let the case go through the courts.

"He should be treated the same way he treated Pakistanis," said Muzammil Mukhtar, a laborer in a factory near Kot Lakhpat jail, where Davis has been detained since February 11 and where his trial began on Friday.


We drove through the streets of the earthquake affected suburb of Brighton, on the outskirts of Christchurch, and came across a collapsed two-story building where Adele Stokes, covered in dust, was picking though the wreckage, looking for anything she could salvage.
Her relatives had just arrived with their two young sons when the 6.3 magnitude quake struck Christchurch on Tuesday at 12.51 p.m.

Still visibly shaken up days after the quake, Adele looks at the tonnes of rubble that could have so easily have crushed her, her family and friend to death. And if the pub had been opened, as it was due to later that afternoon, Adele says there would definitely have been fatalities.

"It was terrible, it started shaking -- moving from side to side and the walls were caving in. Then the floor dropped. We somehow managed to escape and get the kids out. I don't know how we did it. I really don't."

It was Adele's neighbor Dale Lynn who helped pull them to safety. His house was still standing after the quake violently shook the city, but then he heard the yelling and screams coming from next door.

The air was filled with dust and he couldn't see anything. All he could hear were cries for help. He and his son followed the noise and quickly found them - pulling them all to safety. And other than a few cuts, bumps and bruises, everyone else got out unscathed.

Adele is aware she's lost everything but continues to smile. She knows how fortunate she is just to be alive. Her friend Melissa arrives and gives her a huge hug, repeating over and over again: "Thank god you are safe."

Melissa is a policewoman who lives down the road. She drove past Adele's house after the quake and feared the worst. Melissa says she tried desperately to reach Adele on the phone but got no answer. The two women can now laugh. Adele explains she'd lost her mobile phone in the debris until a friend found it -- banged up but remarkably still working.

Adele has decided to leave Christchurch for a while. With no home, she's taking off in a camper van and heading north. It's been a tough few days but as she walks off carrying just a handful of retrieved possessions, Adele reminds me, she's one of the lucky ones.